Irani Cup has traditionally been the season-ender in domestic cricket where the Ranji Trophy champions take on a Rest of India squad. Jaffer, who was a pillar of strength for first time champions Vidarbha this season, showcased his class yet again as he took the Rest of India bowling line-up to the cleaners at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur.
Rest of India's bowling attack consisted of the world's best off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and other promising talents like Navdeep Saini, Shahbaz Nadeem, Jayant Yadav and Siddarth Kaul.
The former India opener has now become only the third batsman representing the Ranji Trophy winning team to score a double century in the tie. Delhi's Surinder Amarnath (235* in 1980) and Karnataka's Gundappa Viswanath (200* in 1974) are the other two.
Wasim Jaffer already holds the record for being the most prolific run-getter in the history of India's elite domestic tournament, the Ranji Trophy. In his brief career as an opener for India in Test cricket, Jaffer scored 1944 runs in 31 matches at an average of 34.10. Jaffer had spoken exclusively with Cricketnext after Vidarbha's Ranji Trophy triumph and said he knew the team had the potential to go a long way this season but winning the title was a bonus.
"When I left Mumbai no one really thought I will play another Ranji trophy final, leave alone winning the title. And to be honest, neither did anyone in the Vidarbha team think it could be possible. But I was always hopeful of this team doing well. During the pre-season camp I could see that the team had lot of talented players and if they played as a team, something special could happen."
"My predictions came true as we started playing and to win the title is a dream come true for these players. It is a different territory for these boys and perhaps a big stepping stone in their career," said Jaffer.
Jaffer, who has been associated with Vidarbha since 2015-16 season, was a run machine for Mumbai at the top of the order. But his role as a professional cricketer with a smaller team like Vidarbha has been different. He has batted in the middle-order to provide much needed steel and has played his role in the development of youngsters. The former India opener actually singled out the role of professional cricketers as a major catalyst in improving the fortunes of smaller teams.
"Professional players help in building a winning mentality. Their experience comes in handy during pressure situations and the youngsters can learn a lot from them. I remember the kind of effect the likes of Aakash Chopra and Hrishikesh Kanitkar had on the Rajasthan team, when they went on to win their maiden title."
"Infrastructure also plays a huge part in the development of a team and the likes of Andhra, Kerala and Gujarat have led the way in the recent years. Even in Vidarbha, the administrators deserve a pat on their back for improving the facilities," the former Mumbai captain said.
Jaffer, who is the only batsman to breach the ten thousand-run mark in Ranji Trophy, said that sporting wickets and the home and away format is helping in bringing about a level playing field in Ranji Trophy, that is in turn helping the smaller teams beat the established order.
"To win the Ranji Trophy these days you need a good bowling attack and that's what we had this time. Gone are the days when matches were played on belters. The quality of the pitches have improved and a major reason for the that is the involvement of BCCI curators. Sporting pitches help produce better cricketers."
Jaffer also singled out coach Chandrakant Pandit as the man responsible for the turnaround in the fortunes of Vidarbha.
"Lot of credit goes to Chandrakant Pandit as he brought these players out of their comfort zone. He helped improve the fitness of the players and made them believe in their abilities."
"From the first match itself the focus was on the performance of the entire team and not on individual goals. Pandit helped in making the boys play as a team. He organised a lot of group activities and that is the kind of bonding needed in a long tournament like Ranji Trophy," Jaffer said.
Talking about his own international career, which lasted 31 Test matches, Jaffer said that he doesn't regret not getting a call-up post 2008 despite scoring a bagful of runs in domestic cricket.
"My international career is a long way back in the past and I don't really think about it anymore. I am a firm believer in destiny and I don't regret things that have not happened. I should be thankful that I got to represent my country at least and I did that for 31 Test matches. That was and will always remain the proudest moment of my life, that I played for my country. I still enjoy playing the sport and have the motivation in me to help youngsters. Hopefully I will continue," said Jaffer, who has 1944 runs under his belt in Test cricket.
First Published: March 15, 2018, 4:43 PM IST